The government indicated this was the first phase; other madarsas would be provided similar grants in the future. The madarsas are entitled to use the funds for modernisation and providing modern and vocational education, in addition to religious discourses. About 600 students studying in ninth and 10th standards would be given annual scholarships of Rs 4,000, while Rs 5,000 a year would be provided to students from 11th and 12th standards and industrial training institutes.
However, the government has laid down a condition that madarsas availing of the grant would have to be registered with the Charity Commissioner or the Waqf Board. Further, the grant would be discontinued if students from these madarsas failed to appear for the 10th examination.
The state Cabinet’s decision is in keeping with a key recommendation of the Sachar committee. To streamline various development projects, the state government has already provided about Rs 450 crore to the state Minorities Commission.
State minorities minister Naseem Khan said the government’s decision was an attempt to bring poor and underprivileged Muslim children studying in madarsas into the mainstream.
However, the timing of the decision was questioned by the Opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as by the Samajwadi Party. While Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote alleged this was another attempt of the government to appease minorities, Samajwadi Party legislator Abu Azmi claimed the decision was taken keeping the coming general elections in mind. He alleged money meant for minorities rarely reached actual beneficiaries.
Munaf Hakim, chairman of the state Minorities Commission refuted charges of vote-bank politics. He said the government’s move would help upgrade educational standards by modernising madarsas.
Maharashtra’s population stands at 112 million, of which Muslims account for 10.6 per cent. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region houses 15-18 per cent of the Muslim population. Districts with high Muslim populations include Greater Mumbai, Thane, Aurangabad, Nashik, Jalgaon and Pune.